Stem cells have the ability to keep dividing over long periods of time, when most other cells in the body become dormant and stop dividing. Scientists have therefore wondered what mechanism allows stem cells to continue replicating. A paper published online in Nature identifies part of this perpetuating process.
According to Hannele Ruohola-Baker and colleagues, small RNA molecules called microRNAs keep cells on the path to proliferation. MicroRNAs can regulate gene expression and help stem cells to bypass a stopping point in the cell cycle. More specifically, the authors say that microRNAs give the stem cells a green light to pass from the normal growth phase to the stage in which they begin replicating their DNA for later division.
Hannele Ruohola-Baker (University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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